Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Herb Story

Lush growth, rampant flowering, overpowering greenness. The success story of my herb garden this summer has been inspiring, filling me with joy every morning, as I gather a handful of herbs to treat the children's bunnies with. The parsley is so abundant that I can feed it to them with no regrets, in fact they are doing me a favour, as I hate to waste it and it needs picking to keep it growing throughout the season. They even get basil as I nip off the heads about to flower

and they love the rocket, which spirals out of control and into flower in no time.

Yet all this burgeoning fertility conceals a few sadder stories that escape the eye at first glance, concealed by the outsized swathe of marigolds, planted to repel bugs and expected to be half the size that they have achieved so far.

The row of coriander seeds, that I planted a month ago to succeed a defunct row of rocket, struggled to make it through to the light. While the adjacent new row of rocket germinated and grew strong,

only one seedling of coriander emerged. I weeded around it tenderly, straining my eyesight to see if any other seedling would emerge next to it. I watered it every day, determined to preserve this one precious plant, and yet, last week’s several days of over 40C must have overpowered its delicate new leaves. When I looked for it on the weekend, it seemed to have shrunk back into itself, almost back into the ground, its early braveness as a lone survivor fading too timidly to make it in the harsh world I’d exposed it to.

As gardener in chief I could only mourn it briefly, before looking at the moon calendar to find a propitious day to plant a new row of seeds, in hope that they would have a luckier start in the world. The coriander planted in October has totally gone to flower,

so a new row is sorely needed to keep our salads and curries supplied with fresh zingy flavour.

But I empathise with that one brave but vanquished seed – sometimes I feel like shrinking back under a comfortable layer of soil too, away from the harsh light of day. It is having the support of the rest of the row, a family supporting and offering companionship, that raises spirits enough to survive the heat, put out new leaves and brave each new day as it comes.

So fingers crossed that the latest row of coriander germinates prolifically and grows apace with plenty of company.

My herb garden back in September...
rampantly spilling over the paths in January...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Calcium for the Nearly Teens

Our son is growing fast. No longer a child, he is on the brink of a growth spurt, lanky limbs and no spare flesh. Last year he managed to fracture one wrist playing soccer and on Christmas Day he sprained the other falling from his new J-board. Growing bones are apparently prone to green stick fractures and lanky limbs tend to be uncoordinated, though I think we just need to teach him to fall more gracefully – acting classes or judo?!

He’s been a picky eater since toddlerhood and shows no signs of voluntarily taking to vegetables. Rice and baked beans is a favourite dish. After the fracture we suddenly became more conscious of the fact that he probably needs more calcium than he’s getting from his chosen foods, to build his growing bones properly. He eats yoghurt but not milk. Green leafy vegetables are totally yuk. Eggs bleagh. Nuts ditto. Seeds...don’t even think about it. Sardines, no way!

So I started researching the amounts of calcium required for a growing teen and alternative sources that he might just possibly consider.

The good news is that his bowl of yoghurt, as long as he has it every breakfast, provides 400mg of calcium, so that is a third of his 1200mg minimum daily requirement sorted.

His cheese sandwich for school lunch provides another 150-200 mg.
When oranges are in season right through winter we’re in luck, as one orange provides about 70 mg calcium and he will happily eat a whole one at breakfast. Strawberries in summer have 25-30mg per cup and we’ve had a bumper year, but even strawberries can get boring after a while.

Now we’re scouting around for another 500 mg. The only green vegetable he’ll eat without protest is broccoli and that is good for 180mg per cup... so if he would just eat a few more florets it would make a difference. But there are plenty of other things he eats which have some calcium in – apple juice has 17mg per cup, a baked potato about 26 mg, Even his staple baked beans have a decent amount of calcium.

So it looks like I don’t have to force feed him sardines just yet... thank goodness, because I don’t even like them much myself! For the rest, meat has some calcium, so does wholewheat bread and my herb garden is a calcium supplement in itself. Parsley has plenty of calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals, rosemary and thyme provide calcium too in small amounts, plus are packed with other valuable nutrients. I haven’t persuaded him to accept chopped parsley sprinkled over his food just yet, but he did drink some of my rosemary tea this morning without complaint, so I think he has a chance of growing some strong bones after all.

And the mother’s devious strategy of cooking up mince with loads of chopped vegetables in it works for him, as long as he can swallow the vegetables without having to chew them! So onions, garlic, carrots, tomato paste, herbs and maybe even some shredded spinach will all add plenty of calcium and other nutrients to the meat.

And the vitamin D essential for absorption of calcium is in abundant supply at the moment – the sun is shining and it is way too hot – we’ve had over 40C for three days now, without a cool night breeze to bring relief, but at least he is down at the swimming pool absorbing some bone-building vitamin D and collecting freckles... so now I guess we just have to worry about sun-damage.. those anxious parent blues!

A belated Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to you! My blog has managed to totally ignore the whole festive season this year, but now the tree will be coming down today, I seem to have time and thoughts for writing again. Looking forward to catching up with reading all your blogs again too!xx